As the Easter weekend fades into distant memory, my programme of visits to the City’s key trading partners kicks back into action. Instead of a far-flung, emerging market on the other side of the globe, however, my travels this week take me to economic partners a lot closer to home – the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
This visit will also be a family affair for me. Almost 150 years ago, my great-grandfather Sir Alfred Yarrow founded a major ship-building business in London. Eventually the business grew so large it was moved to the banks of the Clyde in Glasgow and it became an employer of thousands in the region. I look forward to visiting the old Yarrow shipyards in the coming days – no doubt very different to the bustling hub to be witnessed in the early twentieth century.
But the main purpose of this visit is not for nostalgia but to help shift the public perception that London is the be-all and end-all destination for the UK’s financial and professional services industry. It certainly is an uphill task, despite the figures telling an entirely different story.
Scotland as a country employs over 150,000 people in the financial sector, with Edinburgh and Glasgow accounting for around half of this figure. Added to this are the regional hotspots of Aberdeen and Dundee, and the industry as a whole accounts for 11 per cent of Scotland’s economic output. This pattern repeats itself across the rest of the UK, as 22 cities up and down the country have over 10,000 employees in the sector.
Scotland has particular strengths in banking, life assurance and pensions, and a renowned centre of excellence in investment management, with its origins dating back to the nineteenth century. RBS, Clydesdale Bank and Alliance Trust are just a few of the higher profile names to have their headquarters here, while I am particularly struck by the fact that the number of accountants employed in Glasgow is second only to London – noticeably higher than Birmingham and Manchester. As chairman of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment – the largest professional qualifications body of its kind – I am proud that Scotland is also our second biggest membership base in the world.
This is why my programme is going to combine a series of meetings and roundtables with key business figures, legal services leaders, representatives of the fintech sector, the Scottish government and the Green Investment Bank. I will be asking the same question to all of these people: how can we strengthen their economic ties with London? That is the ultimate goal for any of my regional visits during my mayoralty.
Only when all our regions, Scotland included, are pulling in the same direction, creating wealth, employing people and building their economies, can we share the success of prosperity. My visit is focused on one thing – building partnerships. A strong partnership between the City and Scotland is something I am sure we all want to see.